In this episode of Trekking Through Compliance, we consider the episode A Private Little War which aired on February 2, 1968, Star Date 4211.4.
Spock, Bones, and Kirk beam down to a planet to obtain biological specimens. McCoy reports that the planet is a medical treasure trove. Kirk is familiar with and fondly remembers the planet as it was the first planet he surveyed as a young Ensign, some 13 years ago. Kirk also reports to Spock that the planet’s inhabitants are peaceful and are only just beginning to learn how to forge iron. He is therefore extremely surprised to see villagers with rifles lying in ambush for a party of hill people which includes Kirk’s former friend Tyree. To distract the ambushers, Kirk throws a rock, which causes the rifle to go off. However, it also brings on a chase, and Spock is shot with a flintlock while trying to escape.
The landing party beams up to the Enterprise, where they find a Klingon ship heading towards them. However, Kirk manages to keep the ship remain concealed by hiding the Enterprise on the opposite side of the planet. Kirk speculates that the Klingons have violated the treaty governing the “neutral planet” which restricts both parties to scientific research and provided them with rifles. Kirk and McCoy beam down to investigate the Klingon’s activities, leaving Dr. M’Benga in charge of Spock.
After beaming down, Kirk is attacked by the poisonous mugato, a large white beast resembling a gorilla with a horn on its head and fins on its back. There is no antidote to the poison, but the hill people find McCoy and Kirk and take them to Tyree, who is now their leader. The Kanutu woman Nona is a medicine woman, as well as being the power-hungry manipulative wife of Tyree. She cures Kirk using a mako root and by having Tyree make a cut across her hand. After Kirk is healed, the wound on Nona’s hand also vanishes.
Tyree reports that the firesticks are made by the village people, and that they first appeared about a year ago. Nona wants Kirk to use his weapons to vanquish the village people and make her husband a powerful man. She is greatly disappointed when Tyree pledges not to kill and Kirk is reluctant to share his knowledge of weaponry.
Kirk and McCoy enter a village and discover the Klingon Krell advising the village leader Apella, as well as carbon-free steel and other technological innovations too advanced for a primitive society. Unfortunately, they are discovered when McCoy accidentally triggers his tricorder. Luckily, they are able to escape.
Meanwhile, Spock recovers aboard the Enterprise, but tells Nurse Chapel “hit me” when he comes out of his self-induced healing trance. Nurse Chapel is hesitant at first, but then complies, only to be restrained by a shocked Scott. Dr. M’Benga then continues striking Spock and with the aid of the pain thus induced, Spock is able to come out of his trance.
On the planet, Kirk furnishes the hill people with rifles, noting the analogy of the present situation with the brush conflicts on the Asian continent. In this conflict, Kirk says, two great powers fought through surrogates by supplying the opposing sides with roughly equal weaponry, an obvious reference to the Viet Nam War.
Nona uses an herb to seduce Kirk. Although Tyree witnesses the seduction, he cannot bring himself to fire the gun he is holding and runs off. Meanwhile, Nona is attacked by a mugato and Kirk uses a phaser to kill it. Nona repays the favor by hitting Kirk on the head with a rock and stealing his phaser. However, when she attempts to turn it over to the village people, they are only interested in molesting her. When the hill people arrive, the village people kill Nona, believing that she has set them up. The village people are killed by the hill people, but Tyree is mad with anger and asks Kirk for many weapons with which to kill the village people. Kirk complies by asking Scotty to manufacture flintlock rifles for the hill people which he refers to as “serpents for the Garden of Eden.” As they beam back to the Enterprise, Kirk s upset at the loss of innocence he has contributed to but knows of no other action he could have taken.
This episode has two clear analogies. First it is about the Vietnam War. In Producer Gene Coon’s mind in 1967, the American War in Vietnam was immoral and hopeless – but ultimately inevitable and inescapable, and in the best interest of the South Vietnamese people. The second is Nona as Lady Macbeth.
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Excruciatingly Detailed Plot Summary by Eric W. Weisstein for A Private Little War
MissionLogPodcast.com-A Private Little War